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Friendship, Descent and Alliance in Africa

Friendship, Descent and Alliance in Africa: Anthropological Perspectives

Martine Guichard
Tilo Grätz
Youssouf Diallo
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 220
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  • Book Info
    Friendship, Descent and Alliance in Africa
    Book Description:

    Friendship, descent and alliance are basic forms of relatedness that have received unequal attention in social anthropology. Offering new insights into the ways in which friendship is conceptualized and realized in various sub-Saharan African settings, the contributions to this volume depart from the recent tendency to study friendship in isolation from kinship. In drawing attention to the complexity of the interactions between these two kinds of social relationships, the book suggests that analyses of friendship in Western societies would also benefit from research that explores more systematically friendship in conjunction with kinship.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-287-4
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-vii)
    Günther Schlee

    This book is about interactions among different types of relationship in a comparative setting – a rather complex topic. Because the English concepts for the types of relationship at issue – friendship, descent and alliance – cannot be assumed to be universally valid and precisely translatable, another difficult task arises: seeking rough equivalents of such terms in other languages and exploring their meaning in different cultural settings.

    Social cohesion is what makes a society out of a mere collection of people. But there is no social cohesion as such. It comes in different shapes. A closer look reveals that there are several binding...

  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
    Martine Guichard, Tilo Grätz and Youssouf Diallo
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)
    Martine Guichard

    Friendship, descent and alliance are basic forms of relatedness that have received unequal attention in social anthropology. To this day, friendship still remains understudied, even if the subject has become more fashionable over the last three decades.¹ Recent research has been mainly conducted in Western countries,² probably paying less heed to other parts of the world because of the premise that the room left for friendship to flourish as an extra-kin relationship is inversely proportional to the importance of kinship as a factor structuring community. This premise is variously discussed in the present volume which shows that the relationship between...

  6. Part I. Friendship, Kinship and Age

    • Chapter 1 Where Are Other People’s Friends Hiding? Reflections on Anthropological Studies of Friendship
      (pp. 19-41)
      Martine Guichard

      As Allan observed, it is far easier to discover who a person’s kin are than who his or her friends are (1979: 30). One reason for this does indeed seem to be that the recognition of kinship is based on principles that are more firmly agreed on and more broadly socially acknowledged than those underlying friendship (Allan 1979: 30). Another reason is that in everyday speech, the term ‘friend’ tends to be ‘a residual label, a description [first] applied to associates for whom no more specific title is available’ (Fischer 1982: 305). Given that friends who are simultaneously neighbours and...

    • Chapter 2 Comradeship and the Transformation of Alliance Theory among the Maasai: Shifting the Focus from Descent to Peer-Group Loyalty
      (pp. 42-54)
      Paul Spencer

      In considering the topic of friendship among the Maasai of East Africa, it is useful to recall Simmel’s (1950) analysis of dyads and triads as fundamental building blocks of society. A dyad, he noted, entails a very personal relationship that can involve a range of close emotional bonds, and it may be regarded as the basic element of any personal network of friends. But this relationship is often ambivalent and essentially fragile. Even where the pair is united through warm fellow feelings, this union cannot survive the death or desertion of either partner. The only lasting future lies in breaking...

  7. Part II. Friendship and Ethnicity

    • Chapter 3 Friendship Networks in Southwestern Ethiopia
      (pp. 57-73)
      Wolde Gossa Tadesse and Martine Guichard

      This chapter deals with friendship in a region where friendship is still a largely institutionalized practice and an important feature of social organization. It focuses more specifically on bond-friendships established across ethnic boundaries, drawing primarily on data collected by Tadesse among the Hor (also known as Arbore) from 1994 to 1996 and secondarily on a series of brief visits and research work he conducted among the Konso between 1984 and 2002. The Hor are agro-pastoralists whose language ‘belongs within a “Macro Somali” (now “Omo-Tana”) group [which is itself] a major division of Lowland East Cushitic’ (Hayward 2003: 317). They live...

    • Chapter 4 Friendship and Spiritual Parenthood among the Moose and the Fulbe in Burkina Faso
      (pp. 74-96)
      Mark Breusers

      Ever since the Mossi or Moose kingdoms were created from the fifteenth century onwards, they have been marked by their capacity to accommodate difference. They originated from a pact concluded between a ‘conquering’ population that still traces its origin to the Mamprussi and Dagomba chieftaincies in the north of present-day Ghana, and various ‘autochthonous’ groups which came under their control. The initial pact assigned political power to the foreign conquerors, thenakombse,and religious authority to the autochthones, thetengbiise,who thereby preserved a distinct identity and provided the religious legitimacy for thenakombse’srule and exercise of power. In...

    • Chapter 5 Labour Migration and Moral Dimensions of Interethnic Friendships: The Case of Young Gold Miners in Benin (West Africa)
      (pp. 97-116)
      Tilo Grätz

      Friendship relations have often been analysed either from a structural and functionalist perspective – focusing on their role in uniting smaller or larger groups or even societies, and their assumed intrinsic mechanisms – or with respect to their emotional qualities. The latter perspective points to the significance of friendship in the different phases of an individual’s life and how the various local and cultural meanings and practices of friendship differ according to context or situation.

      The underlying theoretical approach for the present case study sides with those attempts, in the realm of social anthropology, that try to integrate the two above-mentioned perspectives....

  8. Part III. Friendship, Politics and Urbanity

    • Chapter 6 Friendship and Kinship among Merchants and Veterans in Mali
      (pp. 119-132)
      Richard L. Warms

      In this contribution, I would like to reflect on the nature of friendship among two different groups in Mali. I worked among merchants in the southwestern Malian city of Sikasso in the mid-1980s and among veterans of theTirailleurs sénégalais,the military regiments conscripted and recruited from France’s African possessions during the colonial era, in the city of Bougouni in the mid-1990s. I believe that friendship served substantially different purposes for members of each group and this variety shows that friendship is an essential element of society for both of these groups, but can only be interpreted contextually.

      Several threads...

    • Chapter 7 ‘Down-to-Earth’: Friendship and a National Elite Circle in Botswana
      (pp. 133-144)
      Richard Werbner

      My analysis of friendship as a social process among urban elites¹ carries forward three interests, which bring together shifts in theory and fresh empirical observations. The first is the broad interest that foregrounds the moral in the social, because it is not reducible to power and its many guises or disguises. An alternative approach, relentlessly rehearsing the social as no more than the instrumental or tactical transactions over resources, has become virtually a spent force, after its decades of intellectual dominance, especially in political anthropology. Against that stands the exploration of how actual practice creates and responds to moral passion,...

    • Chapter 8 Negotiating Friendship and Kinship in a Context of Violence: The Case of the Tuareg during the Upheaval in Mali from 1990 to 1996
      (pp. 145-160)
      Georg Klute

      Since Mali gained independence from France in 1960, the Malian Tuareg have been involved repeatedly in armed upheavals. One of these started in 1990, almost simultaneously with an upheaval of Tuareg in neighbouring Niger. Both upheavals lasted until the mid-1990s. The Malian upheaval was formally ended in a ceremonial burning of weapons, known as the ‘Flame of Peace’ (Flamme de la Paixin French), in the Saharan town of Timbuktu in 1996.

      The Tuareg upheavals of the 1990s aimed originally at building up autonomous regions or even a state that would embrace all members of the ‘Tuareg nation’ (temust or...

  9. Afterword. Friendship in a World of Force and Power
    (pp. 161-179)
    Stephen P. Reyna

    In the Introduction to this volume it is noted that friendship relations can be seen as constituting a ‘social capital’. Given that ‘capital’ was Bourdieu’s (1986 [1983]) term for power, this amounts to recognition that friendship concerns social power. Equally stimulating here is the first chapter by Martine Guichard, which draws attention to ‘veiling’ and ‘emotional economy’ as useful concepts for the investigation of friendship. Although Guichard does not clearly theorize about friendship in terms of power, her approach contributes to an understanding of friendship in such terms, i.e., an understanding that is at the core of this essay.¹ Here,...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 180-199)
  11. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 200-201)
  12. Index
    (pp. 202-211)